John Wall's Backup: Who's On Point?
LAS VEGAS — Not a secret: The Wizards are content to wait out the free agency process before they make final roster determinations. With the amnestying of Andray Blatche, the Wizards now have 12 contracted players on the roster.
The Wizards could use another another big man for depth. Nene, Emeka Okafor, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, and Jan Vesely form a solid core, but…. For instance, I’m hearing that the Wizards would love to bring back James Singleton, but the courting process might take some time to develop, if it does at all. With the roster changes thus far, the minutes that Singleton could get have dried up a bit. Just like the Wizards, he has to let some free agency dominoes fall before being able to decide on the best option for him.
The more glaring need, however, is finding a backup point guard.
“We’re looking for somebody who can run a ball-club,” said Sam Cassell on Sunday. “We’ve got John Wall, but after John Wall, we need to figure it out. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Now, this is not an indictment of Shelvin Mack, although his summer league play did little to inspire. This is more of a reflection of two realities: 1) Mack is still making one of the toughest NBA adjustments in learning how to be a point guard, a position that he didn’t really play much in college, and 2) if the Wizards have true playoff aspirations, going into the season with a backcourt of John Wall, Shelvin Mack, Jordan Crawford, and Bradley Beal won’t cut it. With John Wall again expected to average around 36 minutes per game, or more (he averaged just under 38 as a rookie), there isn’t a ton of opportunity for a vet to get playing time. Still, the Wizards would like the comfort of knowing someone trustworthy is available.
A league source with knowledge of the Wizards’ situation indicates that A.J. Price is a cost-affordable option on the radar. After spending his first three NBA seasons with the Indiana Pacers, the 25-year–old’s rights were renounced by the team on July 8. Price appeared in 44 of 66 games last season, averaging 12.9 minutes per contest. His per 36 minutes numbers: 10.9 points, 5.5 assists, 2.0 turnovers, and 3.9 rebounds. His shooting percentages, unfortunately, were not so hot. Price shot 33.9-percent from the field and made just 26 of his 88 3-point attempts (29.5%).
“I actually think he can play backup point guard in this league; not at a super high level, but he isn’t a disaster,” writes Jared Wade of the ESPN TrueHoop Pacers blog, Eight Points, Nine Seconds. “He doesn’t have range, but I think he’s actually passable from mid-range.” To note, Price was 11-for-21 from 10-to-15 feet last season, 13-for-37 from 16-feet to the 3-point line.
Other names said to be on the Wizards’ radar include 12-year veteran Keyon Dooling. Dooling appeared in 44 games with the Boston Celtics last season, averaging 14.4 minutes, 40.5-percent from the field, and 33.3-percent from behind the arc. His per 36 numbers: 9.9 points, 2.8 assists, 1.8 turnovers, and 2.1 rebounds. John Lucas III was an option heading into Las Vegas, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting that Lucas is about to sign with the Toronto Raptors..
The Wizards will also continue to monitor Houston’s situation. When the Rockets were chasing Dwight Howard via trade, Stein five days ago reported that they might be willing to waive Shaun Livingston’s non-guaranteed contract in order to clear cap space. Washington would love to bring him back. Livingston’s 26 games with the Wizards in early 2010 were crucial in resurrecting his NBA career, so his return would be a good story, and perhaps the ideal situation this summer. Livingston is not a long-distance shooter, but his polished offensive game and 6-foot-7 frame gives him an advantage over smaller guards. His per 36 numbers in 58 games with the Milwaukee Bucks last season: 10.5 points, 4.0 assists, 2.2 turnovers, 4.1 rebounds, and 46.9-percent shooting from the field. Now, however, it looks like Howard might be headed to the Los Angeles Lakers, per ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard.
The signing of a second– or third-string point guard to fill out one of the last roster spots won’t make or break the young Wizards team, but the decision is a significant one. John Wall has two seasons under his belt, Shelvin Mack just one; the goal for the team is to continue to invest in their development. So any point guard the Wizards might bring in must have an understanding of the limited minutes available as well as the need to mentor both Wall and Mack.
Roger Mason and Mo Evans continue to be options, and the team will continue to monitor potential cuts from other rosters. Otherwise, with owner Ted Leonsis hesitant to commit too much more money this season after using the amnesty provision on Blatche, expect whatever direction the Wizards go in to be economical.